Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Have you experienced a traumatic event? Are you suffering from lingering fear and anxiety? Do you feel like you no longer have any control over how you think, feel and behave?

Posttraumatic stress disorder – also known as PTSD – is a mental health challenge that may occur in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, a terrorist act, an act of war, a serious accident, rape, or any other violent personal assault.

It is believed that PTSD affects nearly four percent of the U.S. adult population. While it is usually linked with veterans who’ve experienced combat, PTSD occurs in all people regardless of age, race, nationality or culture. In fact, women are twice as likely to experience PTSD than men.

What are the Symptoms of PTSD?

People with PTSD often experience intense thoughts and feelings related to their traumatic experiences. These can last for a long time after the initial event. Many people with PTSD also relive the event through flashbacks and nightmares.

People with PTSD often feel intense emotions such as fear, anger, sadness and a detachment from friends, family and community members. They often avoid people and situations that remind them of the traumatic event. Ordinary sounds or incidents, such as a door banging or accidental touch in a crowd may cause a strong and uncontrollable reaction.

Diagnostic Criteria for PTSD

What follows is a summary of diagnostic criteria A through H for PTSD in adults, adolescents, and children older than 6 years old. All criteria are required for a diagnosis of PTSD to be made:

Criterion A: Exposure to death, threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence in one (or more) of the following way(s):

  • Direct experience of the trauma

  • Witnessing firsthand the trauma

  • Learning a relative or close friend was exposed to a trauma

  • Repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of trauma, typically experienced by first responders, medics, police officers, etc.

Criterion B: Presence of one (or more) intrusive symptoms associated with the traumatic event(s) after the event(s) occurred:

  • Recurrent distressing memories

  • Recurring nightmares

  • Flashbacks, or disassociative reactions in which the person feels the trauma repeating

  • Intense or prolonged psychological distress in the face of reminders

  • Physical reactions in the face of reminders

Criterion C: Avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, as evidence by one or more of the following:

  • Avoidance of distressing memories and thoughts about the trauma

  • Avoidance of distressing external reminders of the trauma, like people, places, conversations, and activities

Criterion D: Negative alterations to mood and cognition, as evidenced by two (or more) of the following:

  • Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma

  • Exaggerated negative thoughts about oneself, others, or the world

  • Blaming oneself or others for the trauma

  • Persistence negative emotional state, like fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame

  • Diminished interest in activities

  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others

  • Inability to experience positive emotions

Criterion E: Alterations in arousal and reactivity, as evidenced by two or more of the following:

  • Irritability and angry outbursts with little or no provocation

  • Reckless and self-destructive behavior

  • Hypervigilance

  • Exaggerated startle response

  • Problems with concentration

  • Difficulty sleeping

Criterion F: Duration of the disturbance is more than 1 month.

Criterion G: The disturbance causes significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, and other important areas of functioning.

Criterion H: Symptoms are not due to medication, substance use, or another medical condition.

Two specifications are part of this diagnostic criteria, too, and are summarized as follows:

  • Dissociative Specification: In addition to meeting criteria for PTSD, the person experiences high levels of either of the following in reaction to trauma-related stimuli:

  • Depersonalization. Experience of being detached from one’s self or body, as if one were in a dream.

  • Derealization. Experience of unreality, like the world were unreal, dreamlike, distant, or distorted.

  • Delayed Specification. Full diagnostic criteria are not met until at least six months after the traumatic event(s), although onset of symptoms may be immediate.

How Can Treatment Help?

There are a variety of treatments that can be used to treat PTSD. However, there are three specific techniques that are consistently gaining research-based evidence of their effectiveness in successfully treating PTSD.

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy – This modality focuses on how a person perceives a traumatic event and processes it. A therapist can help their client work through stuck points, which are certain thoughts related to the trauma that prevent the person from recovering.

  • EMDR – EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. This technique uses bilateral sensory input such as side-to-side eye movements to stimulate the brain to process difficult thoughts, memories and emotions.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – CBT is a form of talk therapy that focuses on how thoughts, feelings and behaviors are related to one another. The goal of a CBT therapist is to help a client with PTSD return to a place of hope with a greater sense of being in control of their thoughts and behaviors.

If you or a loved one suffer with PTSD and would like to explore treatment options, please reach out to us. We have personally seen amazing transformation through therapy and want to offer the help you need to enjoy life again.


Additional Services

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